A Wicked Welcome Back to Laura Bradford

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, dreaming of daffodils…

I’m super excited to bring Laura Bradford, a/k/a Elizabeth Lynn Casey, back to the Wickeds. I asked her some questions recently, and here’s what she had to say:

  1. Tell us about yourself.laura

I’m a mom. I’ve wanted to write since I was ten. I’ve had 29 books contracted since being diagnosed with MS in the summer of 2006.  I love—and I mean, love—to bake (and eat). And if I could only vacation to one place for the rest of my life, I would choose Disney World—I love the innocent joy and the way it lifts my spirits.

  1. Tell us about your series.

How about I tell you about two of them? 😉

silenceflans_front mech.inddFirst, some quick background on the Emergency Dessert Squad Mysteries, before I get to talk of the latest book.

When the series begins with Éclair and Present Danger, Winnie Johnson (my protagonist) owns a bakery. It’s all she’s ever wanted to do with her life. But the rising cost of rent on the shop soon threatens everything. When she learns she’s been named in a good friend’s will, she thinks she has a chance to stay open. Unfortunately, she soon learns she wasn’t left money but, rather, an old vintage ambulance and a cat that hates the very sight of Winnie. Forced to close her bakery, Winnie is left wondering what she’ll do now. That is until she really looks at the ambulance and sees a way to reinvent her business.

The Silence of the Flans—book # 2—comes out March 7. In an attempt to help de-stress her new boyfriend, Winnie (my protagonist) offers to let one of his business students do a short stint with her Emergency Dessert Squad. The hope is that the hands-on time with a real small business can make the difference between graduating and not graduating for this troubled girl.

Jay (Winnie’s boyfriend) tries to warn her about this particular student. Renee (Winnie’s best friend and employee) tries to convince her to let her go within the first few minutes…but Winnie doesn’t listen.

It’s a decision that may very well derail her new business when the next customer ends up dead—poisoned by one of Winnie’s own desserts.

Now for another new series…

death-in-advertisingDeath in Advertising, the kick-off title in my new Tobi Tobias Mysteries, debuted last month. While the book can be purchased in a trade paperback size on line, the main focus is the e-book and it’s lower price. From a career standpoint, I pursued this contract as a way to get my work in front of the E-audience as the vast majority of my readers, to date, buy physical books. I, too, am a physical book reader, but I know that there is a segment of the population who isn’t. And by reaching them, I hope to grow all of my series.

Death in Advertising is the first book in what, for now, is a three-book series.  All three books will be out in this calendar year so there is no lengthy wait between visits with characters I hope you’ll come to love.

Tobi Tobias (my protagonist) is a fun character. She’s funny, quirky, and, at times, a bit self-deprecating. But she learns a lot about herself as she moves through the books. And her posse of friends—including an African Gray Parrot she pretends to hate—are an absolute hoot to spend time with.

  1. Candy corn. Explain.

I wish I could. I just know that the final day or two of a deadline has me consuming large quantities alongside many glasses of milk. The Brachs Corporation really should consider me as a spokesperson.

  1. You are a very prolific writer. How do you get so much done?

I’m not sure how prolific I am. I have eight years of college tuition to pay (I’m halfway through now!) and that’s quite a motivator to work, work, work if there ever was one.

  1. You’re a Laura Ingalls Wilder fan. Which is your favorite book?

On the Banks of Plum Creek. It had everything—girl drama (Laura/Nellie), dramatic moments (leeches!) and everything else you could want in a good book.

Now that I’m thinking about that book, I’m realizing it’s time to do a little re-reading. J

  1. What’s next for you?

A few things.

*The 12th Southern Sewing Circle Mystery—Patterned After Death (written under my pen name, Elizabeth Lynn Casey) comes out in June.

*The 2nd Tobi Tobias Mystery—30 Second Death—comes out in July.

*I’ll be releasing the sixth book in my Amish Mysteries in late summer/early fall.

*The 3rd Tobi Tobias Mystery—And Death Goes To—comes out in December.

*Dial M for Mousse, the third Emergency Dessert Squad Mystery, will be out in January, 2018.

*And a brand new project I’m beyond excited about will debut in the summer of 2018, releasing first in trade with a mass market reprint.  I’ll share more on my Facebook Author page when I can.

Thanks for stopping by, Laura! Readers, what’s your favorite Laura Bradford or Elizabeth Lynn Casey book or series?

Leaving the Comfort Zone

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, who just tried to schedule a dinner date with a friend…on Super Bowl Sunday. In New England. 

Clearly, I’m a little out of touch on certain things.

Since it’s January and all, I thought I’d share with you one of my goals for the New Year. And that is:

Do Things That Require Me To Step Out Of My Comfort Zone

Even just writing that down and putting it out there requires my taking a risk (Success #1, LOL!). I’m pretty sure most of us are in some kind of routine of actions that may or may not be serving us anymore. I may not have been paying attention to the football postseason schedule, but I have been paying attention to things I do just because I’ve always done them that way. For some things, that’s okay (my technique for boiling water, as an example, doesn’t really need tweaking). For others, well, there could be better ways of accomplishing goals and I’ve vowed to be open to new methods.

Health. Like a lot of people, I use January to make a commitment to get healthier. But this year, instead of vowing to lose weight and exercise more, I decided to try something new. For the last several weeks I’ve been following, not a weight loss plan, but a plan that eliminates foods with the potential to cause inflammation and allergies/sensitivity. It is very strict–no dairy, grains, sugar, legumes (which means no peanut butter *sob*), or processed food. Eventually, I can introduce these foods back into my diet one at a time and see what’s causing me problems. I’m not gonna lie. It’s been difficult. But not impossible.

And the results have been astounding. Aside from an almost unbelievable double-digit weight loss, I am sleeping like a baby. I no longer crave a nap in the afternoon. I almost never crave sugar anymore. And most wonderful of all: the chronic stuffy nose I’ve had my entire life is now completely clear. I am giddy with all this extra oxygen. All this, because I took a chance on something that looked too scary, too darned hard, before.

Knitting. Yes, knitting! I taught myself to knit, from instructions in a magazine, when I was 7 years old. I have always had a quirk in my knitting that has required me to fiddle with patterns. Stitches came out with a little twist, unless I knitted into the back of the stitch (basic knitting involves putting the needle into the front of the stitch). Most of the time I can make it work, but some more complicated lace and eyelet patterns just don’t. I have never been able to figure out why–and I never asked anyone to watch my technique and tell me. Finally, I sat down with a basic how-to-knit video on YouTube, and I understood. It wasn’t the knit stitches that were the problem. They came out twisted because I was wrapping the yarn around the needle the wrong direction on the purl stitches on the back side of the knitted fabric. This seems like a small thing but it honestly was like solving a mystery–one I’d put off addressing for decades. Now to train myself to do the purls correctly!

Writing. This year, I vow to write something other than a cozy mystery, in a completely different genre. To stretch myself. To see if I can do it. Just to see what happens. I’ve already begun the research and some of the outlining. I’ll report back on this one.

How about you? Have you taken a risk lately? Tried something new? 

 

 

 

Being Crafty

Susannah/Sadie/Jane here, taking a break from last minute online shopping…

Hello, all. Hope your holidays, however, whatever, and whenever you celebrate, are bringing you much joy.

We talk a lot about the craft of writing here at the Wickeds. But today let’s talk craft of a different kind: handicrafts! As satisfying as it is for me to write stories, and to edit stories for other people, sometimes there’s just no substitute for making a physical object–something useful, beautiful, or just plain fun. So here’s a crafty pattern, with a variation, for you to try:

SADIE’S CANDLE COZIES

For the knitted version, which you can easily make in an hour, you will need:

-Size 13 knitting nesadie-hartwell-picture-1edles

-Bulky weight yarn, about 10 or 12 yards

-A pint-size mason jar, or any glass jar that’s about 5 inches high with a circumference of about 9 inches. Cozy will stretch.

-Small flameless candle

Gauge is not important. Cast on 26 stitches. Row 1: K1, P1 across. Row 2: P1, K1 across.sadie-hartwell-picture-2a

Repeat these two rows until piece measures 5”. Bind off, and sew shorter edges together into a tube. Place tube on jar. Decorate with ribbon, tiny Christmas ornaments, or bits of greenery. Place flameless candle inside and enjoy.

 

For you non-knitters (Gasp!), here’s another version, using a doily. It will take about 60 seconds to make. You will need:

sadie-hartwell-picture-3          -A doily (if you don’t have one of Grandma’s, check thrift stores. Use one with a loose pattern around the outer edge)

-A glass jar that’s shorter than ½ the diameter of the doily. I used a 9” doily and a 4” high jar.

-Paper or cloth ribbon

 

sadie-hartwell-picture-4aThread ribbon through the pattern around the outside of the doily. Place jar in center of doily, and pull the ribbon tight (like a drawstring), creating a ruffle around the top of the jar. Tie off the ribbon. Use some double-sided tape to hold the doily in place if necessary. Fill with a flameless candle, or use as a cute vase as I’ve done here.

What’s your holiday craft of choice? Bonus points if it includes glitter, felt, pipe cleaners, Popsicle sticks, yarn, or hot glue!

It’s the Great Cozy Pumpkin, Wicked Friends

Susannah/Sadie/Jane here, studiously avoiding the piles of New England leaves that await raking…

It’s October, Wicked Friends, and who doesn’t love this time of year? Costumes. Scary Movies. Candy. And of course, the Great Pumpkin.

EdgarLast January, on Edgar Allan Poe’s birthday, Wickeds Barb Ross, Sherry Harris, and Edith Maxwell, and Accomplices Sheila Connolly and Yours Truly released a collection of short stories based on some of Poe’s work: Edgar Allan Cozy. We had such fun coming up with our own twists on the classics.

Now, of course the Wicked Cozy Authors have the Most Sincere Blog around. And because you’ve all been extra good (not wicked at all), the Great Cozy Pumpkin has a gift for you, but only for a few days.

From today through October 31, just like trick-or-treat candy, Edgar Allan Cozy is free. So please, download your copy from Amazon, tell all your friends, read and enjoy. And if you’re inclined to leave a review, we’d appreciate it.

Let us know what you think, and thanks for reading!

Readers: What’s your favorite Poe story or poem? How old were you when you first read him?

 

The Power of One

Hello, Wicked People! Susannah/Sadie/Jane here, watching the leaves begin to change…

The other day something occurred to me. And it freaked me out a little, in the way that profound revelations sometimes do:

Where I’m at, professionally, is attributable to one person. And that person is not me.

Well, of course I had a little something to do with it, and maybe I would have ended up in the same place via a different path if I hadn’t met her, although I’m not at all certain about that.

Let me take you back a few years. I had always wanted to be a writer, but I could never get past the twenty-page mark in any one work. I’d start. Perfectionism and fear (which are pretty much the same thing in my book) would rear their hideous heads. And I’d quit. Then I’d wait a long time, and try again. Lather, rinse, repeat.

One January, I heard about a writers’ group that was starting up at my local library. Now, the public library is about a hundred yards from my house. I wouldn’t even have to get in the car to go. Still, I tried to think of reasons not to. Finally, I looked myself in the eye and accepted that if I never finished writing a novel, I would regret it on my deathbed. Getting published was not even on my radar–for my own self-respect, I needed to get from “Chapter One” to “The End” and have a whole story, no matter how sucky, in between.

So I put on my boots and coat and hat and scarf and mittens and slogged through the snow to go to that meeting. I stood outside the door in the cold, and almost chickened out. But I went in.

There were six other people there. I sat down next to a woman, and the librarian who was running the group started talking. I stayed. And the woman I sat next to? Well, we connected. She was a little bit ahead of me in her writing journey. She was a  LOT more confident than I was. And we agreed to support each other as we wrote.

A year later, we each had a novel. Mine, with a bit of revision, became Feta Attraction. My friend ultimately decided to self-publish her book, and she asked me to edit it, which I did.

Fast forward a few months, and we had both become members of a bigger writers’ group, the Connecticut Chapter of Romance Writers of America (www.ctrwa.org). During the member news portion of the meeting, my friend stood up and proudly announced that she had self-published her novel. And she thanked me for editing it. At lunch, another writer came up to me and asked if I would edit her novel. And so, a freelance editing business was born, just like that.

Now I’ve left my unfulfilling corporate job far behind me, and I work full-time in the book business. I can honestly say that I am living my dream, and I love what I do for a living. So Jen M., my very dear friend, rock, and partner-in-crime, I thank you from the bottom of my heart. Your friendship changed my life.

How about you? I’d love to hear about your Jen M.

 

Rebalancing Act

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, wondering where the summer has gone…

Financial advisors often tell us to be sure to rebalance our investment portfolios at least once a year, or whenever we have a major life change, to make sure we keep an appropriate mix of investments for whatever our life goals are.

Right now, I’m in a similar kind of rebalancing act.

I was laid off from my corporate job three years ago, and I’ve been freelancing since then. Anybody who’s ever been self-employed or has freelanced knows that it’s incredibly, well, freeing to be in charge of one’s own work destiny. But it takes discipline, both of the mental and financial varieties, to be successful. With no boss but yourself looking over your shoulder, and steady paychecks a thing of the past, you’ve really got to bring it.

And I’ve loved bringing it.

But during this time, I’ve also been open to new opportunities. I applied for quite a few jobs, but got surprisingly few interviews. A few months ago, I put in yet another application for a job I found through an online job matching service. I’d more or less forgotten about it when, lo and behold, I got an interview. And then another. And then was asked to do some job-specific testing and to travel out-of-state for an interview.

Bottom line is, I’m going back to work full-time, at a job in the book business that I’m incredibly excited about, right after Labor Day. The same day I officially become an empty nester when my only child starts college in the city. And almost exactly three years to the day after I left my corporate job.

So where does this leave my writing? Well, darlings, to paraphrase Rick Astley, never gonna give that up! But now that I’ll be on someone else’s schedule again, I’ll need to rebalance my days. Writing, exercising, housecleaning and cooking (I fantasize there will be less of that with my son gone!)–all these things got done, and probably more efficiently, when I worked before. So I’m not worried. And I am, as I think I mentioned, very, very excited about my new situation.

As summer comes to an end (and yes, you scientific types, I know summer doesn’t actually end astronomically until September something), do you rebalance? Any tips for me for getting it all done again?

More Thoughts on Retreats

Susannah/Sadie here, just trying to keep cool…

A few weeks ago the Wickeds posted about the annual retreat they take to the Maine coast. Today I thought I’d post some tips about how to plan your own retreat. Whether you’re a writer, a scrapbooker, a knitter, or have some other craft or hobby you want to have some uninterrupted time to work on with other like-minded folks, a retreat can be a great way to get away from (most of) the responsibilities of daily life and really focus.

I’ll use a writing retreat as an example for the rest of this post, but this basic template will work for most other types.

First you need to decide whom you want to ask to go on your retreat with you. Think very carefully about your roster. You will be in close quarters with these people for several days. Make sure you choose a team of people who don’t have habits you can’t live with, and whom you can trust to pull their weight with shared chores, and whom you can trust to leave you alone when you are working. Don’t bring a diva along with you, anyone who needs to be the center of attention, or you’ll spend the whole weekend focusing on or distracted by her instead of your work. In a similar vein, make sure the people you ask are at more or less your level of skill and expertise. You don’t want a rank beginner, or you may end up doing more teaching than writing. The group I go with has been together for several years and we know each other well in and outside of the writing world. Although, we’re never really out of the writing world.

Next, you need to decide on a venue. I’m blessed in that one of my retreat partners owns a large, beautiful ski home on a mountain in Vermont that she is generous enough to open up to 8-10 of us twice a year. There are 4.5 baths and 5 bedrooms, good Wi-Fi, and, oh, a hot tub. If someone in your group has a second home somewhere, that might be just the place. If that’s not an option, depending on your budget, you may wish to rent a cottage somewhere, or even go to a hotel for a weekend. Obviously, the size of your venue dictates the size of the group you can take. Make sure everyone understands what kind of shared expenses there will be.

I highly recommend having a focus for your retreat. With my group, we set aside several hours (in two blocks) to work on plots and characterizations. We have a designated time where everyone sits around the big table, and we brainstorm a plot for each attendee. You would be amazed at how complete a story can be hammered out by 10 women in a half hour to 45 minutes. This ensures that everyone gets equal time, is giving as well as receiving, and comes away energized and ready to get to work. Bear in mind that we’ve been working together for a while now. The more times you retreat with the same group, the more efficient the process becomes.

Decide how you will handle meals, snacks, and cleanup. For our Vermont weekends, we potluck it, although we do a little advance planning so we don’t end up with 8 slow cookers full of chili. Anyone who’s crunched for time or not much of a cook can bring wine or offer to do the dishes. Oh, and we consider wine our eleventh member of the retreat.

Depending on where you hold your retreat, you may want to set aside a couple of hours to make a field trip into town. Where we go in Vermont (Manchester), there are both an amazing independent bookstore (Northshire Bookstore) and a yarn shop (Yarns For Your Soul). Do set a time limit so you don’t spend your retreat shopping instead of writing.

Finally, decide on some personal goals for the weekend. Perhaps you have a new project and you want to complete several chapters. Or you’re nearly finished with your first draft and you want to bring that puppy home. Or you have a word count target. Be fairly aggressive with your goal setting. The energy that comes from the group may surprise you. Take advantage of it and get as much, or more, done than you ever thought possible.

Oh, and do something nice for your hostess. Bring her a gift, and don’t leave her with a dirty house to clean after you’ve gone.

Do you go on retreat? Would you like to? It’s not that difficult to organize one!